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Supermarket Shopping During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Supermarkets forced to create COVID-safe environments

As the Government considers the impact supermarket shopping, in particular, is having on the wider community because of the increased risk the environment presents, Ministers are likely to force supermarkets and major retail stores to ensure they have stricter processes in place to operate as COVID-safe environments.

Retail stores around the UK will be forced to consider the options available to them, and whether technology can help.

The Government believes supermarkets are now at the centre of spreading coronavirus.

Businesses are turning to technology to help maintain an efficient flow of customers through their shops whilst preserving COVID-safe protocols to ensure customers, security personnel, shop-floor workers and checkout staff are kept as safe as possible from the spread of coronavirus.

The technology is body temperature detection camera systems, as they can; 

  1. instantly detect the raised body temperature of multiple individuals simultaneously.
  2. count the number of people entering and leaving a shop against a fixed maximum allowed in any given situation, thereby easily controlling the maximum number of people inside a shop at any one point. This is otherwise known as density control.
  3. detect and raise an alert for any individuals not wearing a face mask.

Body temperature detection camera systems are a quick-to-implement, cost-effective method of monitoring the body temperature in a flow of people, and can be of significant benefit to stores where a number of safety factors have to be taken into account consistently and simultaneously. The primary function of these systems is to reduce the risk of an individual infected with COVID-19 from entering a shop. However, they can also check that people are wearing a face-covering/mask and raise an alert if not.

This functionality massively reduces the strain on, and responsibility of, security personnel or other shop staff to manage and control these situations.

The Government believes supermarkets are now at the centre of spreading coronavirus.

Major supermarket chains, large-scale shopping centres and precincts currently present by far the biggest risk of the virus spreading because high volumes of people are present, and those people are not adhering to the COVID-safe rules.

People are tired of having restrictions imposed on their daily lives because of the risk of spreading coronavirus, and supermarkets, in particular, have largely relaxed COVID-secure rules designed to keep everyone safe, in favour of keeping everyone happy.

During 2020, rules were implemented to manually restrict the number of people entering supermarkets and control the way they acted once inside. The limitation on numbers entering stores often resulted in long queues forming outside whilst security personnel operated a one-out, one-in policy once the store had reached the maximum number of people allowed inside at any one time.

People were generally very accepting of this regime, helped, in no short measure, by pleasant and warmer weather. We fully appreciated the importance of both limiting the opportunity for too many people to gather in one place, and, during the enforced restrictions at the end of 2020, to continue to sanitise and wear masks in the name of preventing, or at least reducing, the spread of the virus.

With the majority of high street retail businesses closed for the foreseeable future, supermarkets have become the single, busiest shops where the majority of people go at some point during the week. Despite the many restrictions in place, supermarkets are now at the centre of a debate over the risk this represents to the nation.

A Ministerial source has now stated;

Last year these businesses were very good at being COVID-secure. This isn’t happening now – supermarkets are very busy, and that is a real concern.” Adding; “We need to ensure everywhere that’s open is secure.

Ministers are planning to discuss this worsening situation with major supermarkets to ensure the processes they had in place last year, such as one-way systems and limiting numbers inside at any one time, are enforced and strictly adhered to.

Supermarkets are also likely to face random inspections to help prevent the bending of rules in favour of prioritising profits over safety. The majority of supermarket stores have either dropped completely, or significantly reduced their COVID-secure processes, such as social distancing; staff wearing face masks; sanitising of trolleys & baskets, and in-store one-way systems, with many making little or no effort to ensure social distancing between customers and staff is maintained.

How does body temperature detection work?

Body Temperature DetectionA person’s elevated body temperature is recognised the world-over as being a clear indication that the body is fighting an infection. Not everyone reacts the same way to an infection, or within the same period of time, but the vast majority do, hence taking a person’s temperature with a standard, mercury thermometer, remains the defacto standard for determining the presence of an infection.

COVID-19 is no different. When coronavirus infects a person, and the virus becomes COVID-19, the ensuing infection is highly likely to raise that person’s body temperature. This increase in body temperature can be easily and accurately detected using specialist devices. Often, these are seen as hand-held infrared or laser devices used at close-quarters and pointed at the individual’s forehead to determine their body temperature. Whilst effective, it requires the two individuals to be physically close to each other, and individuals can only be tested one at a time. It’s a highly labour-intensive process and can be frustrating for all concerned in high footfall situations, such as the entrance to a shop, an office building, a place of worship or even a takeaway restaurant. 

Dedicated body temperature detection cameras will accurately detect the body temperature of up to thirty individuals simultaneously in less than one second, even whilst people are on the move.

Moreover, anyone found to have a higher than normal body temperature can be immediately and easily identified so that security personnel can take them aside and perform a second, manual temperature test with a hand-held unit, for confirmation. 

Wearing face masks or face coverings.

Whilst the efficacy of wearing a face-covering remains the subject of conjecture, they clearly offer a physical barrier to airborne particles and, therefore, a level of protection, hence the Government’s rules on wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces. People also tend to feel safer wearing a face covering, and being in the presence of others doing so, which is why many shops and food outlets insist customers wear one. 

Our body temperature detection cameras are not only capable of detecting the body temperature of individuals wearing a face covering, as only the forehead is required to be exposed, but they can also alert security personnel when an individual is not wearing one. While extenuating circumstances exist that preclude certain individuals from wearing a face covering, medical proof is required for them to do so, and this detection capability enables security personnel to check and confirm a person’s credentials on an individual basis.

Additionally, further cameras may be deployed in bigger shops, such as supermarkets, where it is difficult to monitor large numbers of people and to raise an alert if a face covering is removed. 

People counting (density control) – keeping numbers at a safe level.

Density Control to count people allowed in a shopIn larger shops and supermarkets it is quite difficult to keep track of the number of people occupying the premises at any one time, especially where the shop has more than one entrance. 

People-counting technology is relatively simple and can be plug and play, making it easy for a shop owner or manager to implement. The system utilises a traffic light system that encourages people not to enter when a red light is showing, indicating that a predetermined occupancy level has been reached. As people leave the shop, the counter automatically monitors the change, displays a green light and allows people to enter, turning the light red as the maximum occupancy level is again reached, and so on.

The combination of body temperature detection, the wearing of a face covering, and controlling maximum occupancy numbers – all fully automated, or in conjunction with minimal security personnel – is a safe, highly effective method of allowing businesses to continue running with a steady flow of shoppers. 

For decades, there have been numerous examples of technology coming to our rescue in dire or desperate situations, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception. Technology is not only more efficient than human intervention, but also more reliable and tireless. Body temperature detection systems and automatic density controls are crucial in these times where businesses need to continue operating, but can only do so where strict safety controls are in force. 

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